Caprina and I pay a visit to Vantreight’s head farmer, Eric Doublier to find out What’s Fresh on the Farm? Eric came to Canada after working on a large Organic Farm in the States (Pacific Northwest area). He has his Master’s Degree in Agriculture and brings his wealth of knowledge to Vantreight Farms expanding produce growing venture.
In the past few years, Vantreight Farms has expanded their food crop varieties from 5 grown on 50-60 acres to now over 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables. They have extended their market of produce and flowers not only local retailers and wholesalers but also to local restaurants and farmers markets in Sidney and Brentwood Bay. They are not currently certified organic although they are in the process of applying for Certification of their greenhouses and land adjacent to them equaling approx. 6.5 acres. All the produce currently grown in their massive greenhouses is managed in a natural way through mulching, crop rotation and biological pest control with the help of Ladybugs.
So…what’s fresh now?
sugar snack carrots
In addition to these tasty sugar snack carrots there were rows and rows in a rainbow of colours. The original and more traditional colour of carrots was actually white or purple, not the lovely bright orange we’ve all come to be familiar with. So, look out for these heirloom varieties at markets. They would be wonderful for pickling as the finished product would look so nice and make great gifts out of season.
A couple of ways that we love to eat carrots at home (besides fresh for snacks): lightly brushed with oil with a sprinkling of pepper and grilled on the BBQ; juiced with beet and a bit of apple; roasted and blended with spices, olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty Moroccan style dip.
I’d say we are in prime pickling and preserving season now. Fall is just around the corner and these chilly mornings remind us all that it’s time to preserve all this bountiful harvest to enjoy for the long, dry winter months. There has been many courses offered around the Victoria area(Foxglove Farm and Food Roots) over the past few weeks, it would be great hear if anyone attended and what new tricks they learned. In addition to salad and pickling cucumbers they have also been growing these tasty Lemon Cucumbers. Eric picks one for us all to snack on as we cruise around the greenhouses. We eat them just like an apple and its the perfect refresher on a hot day in a sultry greenhouse. Delightful, limey, fresh green on the inside and sweet but no discernable lemon flavour.
We wander across to another greenhouse filled with long green rows of green and I’m excited to see the same sorrel (sometimes called spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock) that I had spotted at the Sidney market a few weeks before. This has been a new green for me this year and I’m still a bit fresh on its uses. We take a little munch and I’m surprised at the juicy, lemony flavour and exclaim that, “it was just what I was expecting from the lemon cucumber”. Curious about sorrel, I read that it’s a plant (known more as a herb) that has been cultivated for centuries. It’s often pureed in soups and sauces or just added to salads. The sharp, lemony taste is due to oxalic acid, which is actually a poison. In small quantities, its completely harmless, in large quantities it can be fatal!
After leaving the greenhouse we trek across fields of gently swaying grains. I love the look of vast fields filled with the soft golden hue of grasses gently undulating with the warm breezes. We arrive at fields filled with cauliflower, red, green and lacinato kale, sunflowers and sunchokes (ready by mid-October).
kale and swiss chard
There are still tons of greens available and many of these will keep going right through the fall and even winter. When faced with big armloads of the stuff what do you do with it? David Mincey had a great tip at our ‘Preserving the Harvest’ Workshop on the weekend (stay tuned for more). Chimichurri is a green sauce, typically from Argentina that is a wonderful marinade or topping for grilled meats. David basically grabbed big handfulls of mixed greens such as kale and chard, chopped and blended with cilantro tops, garlic, onion, vinegar, lemon juice and a bit of spice and shazam – you’ve got a wonderful fresh green, flavourful topping to enjoy or can and enjoy all winter long.
All of this produce and more (bull blood beets, candy cane beets, basil, french breakfast radishes, parsley, savoy cabbage, brussel sprouts – sept.15 and melons) is available direct from the farmer at the weekly Sidney Summer Street Market: each Thursday from 5:30 – 9pm along Beacon Avenue, Saanich Peninsula Country Market: Saturdays from 9-1pm and retails at the Root Cellar.
Vantreight Farms produce stall on East Saanich Road is currently closed so they can focus their efforts on abundant supply for the weekly markets. It will re-open for Pumpkin Season a bit later in the fall.
Photos by Caprina Valentine.